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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"The question, some Middle East experts asked, is whether Mrs. Clinton has the negotiating grit to keep both men at the table — the mysterious combination of bluster, theatrics, hand-holding and guile that secretaries of state, like Henry A. Kissinger and James A. Baker III, have deployed to forge agreements between Arabs and Israelis. 'She’s plenty tough, tougher than her husband,' said Aaron David Miller, who worked on peace negotiations in the Clinton administration. 'But does she have a negotiator’s mind-set? These are tough people in a tough neighborhood, who know how to manipulate people.' Early in her tenure, some questioned the scope of Mrs. Clinton’s role after the appointment of highly visible special emissaries like Mr. Mitchell and Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Others suggest that in the case of the Middle East, where Mr. Mitchell has an influential voice in making policy, she was insulating herself from potential failure. If so, that is no longer an option. Mrs. Clinton got her first taste of high-wire negotiating last October in Zurich when she headed off a last-minute dispute that nearly scuttled an agreement between Turkey and Armenia on normalizing diplomatic relations. Sitting in a black BMW limousine, she juggled two cellphones, slowly nudging two ancient enemies together, if only temporarily. In June, at a hotel bar in Lima, Peru, she finalized a deal with a Chinese diplomat over which companies could be named in a United Nations resolution punishing Iran for its nuclear program. But these are sideshows compared with the challenge of bringing together wary foes who have spent six decades avoiding a deal." (NYTimes)



"Lake Como, Italy has long been a haven for celebrities seeking reprieve from the spotlight. It is not uncommon to see Catherine Zeta Jones, Robert De Niro, or Madonna dining at a local restaurant. But when George Clooney fell in love with the place nine years ago, the tiny town was transformed from casual celebrity hangout into a paparazzi paradise. It might never be the same. When Clooney bought his fabulous 18th Century Villa Oleandra here in 2001, it was part of the Heinz Ketchup family estate. The estate has 25 rooms and butts onto the lake in Laglio, a tiny hamlet of less than 900 a few kilometers from the Swiss border. He also purchased two adjoining properties to use as an editing suite and garage for his motorcycles. The acquisition upended everyone’s existence, including the actor’s himself ... Even though Italian designers Donatella Versace and Giorgio Armani both have equally lavish villas on this side of the lake, neither attracts the same attention as Clooney. During the summer months, when his famous friends like Uma Thurman, Brad Pitt, and David Beckham were visiting, boats and helicopters swarmed the area. When Clooney’s friends John Krasinski and Emily Blunt were married on the grounds in July, local police had to set up road blocks and close off the air space above to try to control the paparazzi. But the locals don’t seem to mind a bit. In fact, chasing George Clooney is a local pastime that they blatantly capitalize on." (TheDailybeast)



"Could Serena Williams have her eye on hot R&B star Drake? Sources tell us she's asked her agents to arrange an introduction to Drake, who at 23 is five years younger. One source said, 'They're hoping to fix up a meeting with Serena when he plays Radio City later this month.' Williams, who split with actor/rapper Common in May, might be just what Drake wants. 'I love older women . . . I love experience and maturity and the conversation," he told a radio station this week. "I like to learn from an individual, like, when we converse, I like to re ally be able to soak it all in, the knowledge, the wisdom, all that.' Williams' rep didn't get back to us." (PageSix)



"I had lunch at Swifty’s with Dennis and Terry Stanfill, their daughter Francesca and our mutual friend Sassy Johnson. The Stanfills are in from Southern California to visit their daughter and son-in-law Dick Ney at their house in Southampton. The restaurant’s folding door-windows were open because of the warm weather, and we were seated right there by the sidewalk. The belching and rumbling and screeching of the heavy traffic was bamming our ears. New Yorkers tend to forget that out of towners are not used to that cacophony of mechanical screeches, hisses and fits. Although the Stanfills didn’t seem to mind it as much as this writer. The conversation began with stories about Larry Ashmead, the great book editor who died last Friday (see NYSD 9.7.10), and from there, serendipitously into the mythic world of Babe Paley, one of the characters in the book I was hired to write for Larry (and never did)." (NYSocialDiary)



"Had quite a busy day yesterday in L.A. running around town. The most fun, however, was last night, when I schlepped Jeffrey Deitch to visit the amazing, brilliant 94-year-old artist and funny lady Phyllis Diller at her Brentwood home. Jeffrey loved Phyllis and was so excited by her work, home, style and general aesthetic. Of course I couldn't resist art shopping and bought two of her fab paintings. One is of a NUDE JUGGLER (Ms. Diller cackled loudly and asked, 'Which balls do you watch?') and the other is one of her absurd, but amazing, face paintings. I think Jeffrey's mind was blown by her art. He also bought an amazing piece that I'm jealous of -- a self portrait of Ms. Diller painted over musical notes." (Kim Hastreiter/Papermag)



"Los Penetrados (The Penetrated) is a 45-minute film elaborated in eight acts by the Spanish artist Santiago Serra. Staged geometrically, ten couples have sex in versatile position facing mirrors. In this allegoric porn performance act, each participant embodies a social position according to gender, class, race and have a determined place in Serra’s imposed economy paradigm. The work will be show from September 9th until October 23rd, 2010 at Team Gallery, 83 Grand Street, New York." (TeamGal)



"Democrats are facing the prospect of a Republican tidal wave, as unemployment inches up and President Obama’s approval ratings tumble down. As the fall campaign heats up in earnest, Obama needs his political team to blot out distractions as they focus on the daunting challenge of trying to retain control of the House and Senate. Their focus will be sorely tested by the surprise news Tuesday afternoon that Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago would not run for re-election—sparking speculation that Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff and a key player in the midterm elections, might head home to Illinois to seek the job. The announcement is sure to test Team Obama’s unity—and could speed up the timetable for a major shakeup of the White House political operation, rumored to be coming as soon as the midterm balloting is over. A look at the major players and the odds of their defecting .." (Richard Wolff/TheDailyBeast)



"Brazil's economy maintained its torrid pace of growth in the second quarter, continuing a boom in Latin America's largest economy despite a series of interest rate hikes. Growth surpassed most expectations, and will likely lead economists to raise their forecasts for 2010 as a whole. But a debate rages over the prospects in 2011, with some economists arguing the government should be applying the breaks now, both through lower spending and higher interest rates, to avoid overheating next year. Gross domestic product expanded 8.8% in the second quarter from a year ago, the Brazilian statistics agency, or IBGE, said Friday. That was above the median forecast of 7.9% from a survey of 15 economists by Dow Jones Newswires. Finance Minister Guido Mantega said the first half performance means the economy will grow by at least 7% this year, which 'would represent the best performance in 24 years, and without inflation.' Of the world's major economies, only China is doing better, said Mr. Mantega." (WSJ)



"Over the past decade, Brazil’s students have scored among the lowest of any country’s students taking international exams for basic skills like reading, mathematics and science, trailing fellow Latin American nations like Chile, Uruguay and Mexico.Brazilian 15-year-olds tied for 49th out of 56 countries on the reading exam of the Program for International Student Assessment, with more than half scoring in the test’s bottom reading level in 2006, the most recent year available. In math and science, they fared even worse. 'We should be ashamed of ourselves,' said Ilona Becskeházy, executive director of the Lemann Foundation, an organization based in São Paulo devoted to improving Brazilian education. 'This means that 15-year-olds in Brazil are mastering more or less the same skills as 9-year-olds or 10-year-olds in countries such as Denmark or Finland.' The task confronting the nation — and Mr. da Silva’s legacy — is daunting." (NYT)

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